Ronda Storms, Paula Dockery give thumbs-down to Mike Bennett's growth management bill
In a Senate community affairs committee meeting today, Senators Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, and Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, voted against a growth management bill introduced by Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. Bennett has introduced three bills that break up the essential elements of the controversial SB 360, which passed the Florida Legislature in 2009 but has been struck down by courts as unconstitutional for creating unfunded mandates on local governments. That matter is now on appeal. To keep the legislation going, Bennett introduced bills addressing security cameras, affordable housing and growth management.
Storms, though, said the growth management bill, intended to spur development, is problematic because it allows developers to avoid paying for transportation improvements in "urban service areas" where such a waiver isn't always necessary. Those waivers have typically been reserved for dense, urban areas, where it's difficult to widen roads. "I am concerned that if there is no mechanism for funding transportation at all, then you are leaving local governments with no choice but to raise gas taxes or raise taxes somehow," said Storms, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner.
Hillsborough's urban service areas, Storms said, are actually pretty rural: "It's not a downtown Miami. It's not downtown Tampa. It's downtown Wimauma, which has suburban lands, strawberries and peppers." Not forcing developers to pay for transportation improvements has led to gridlock in and out of the south Hillsborough community FishHawk Ranch, Storms said, and the county is now tasked with paying for road improvements. "We need to do something. We need to provide relief. But it needs to be more tailored," Storms said.
Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, vice chair of the community affairs committee and also a former Hillsborough County commissioner, voted in favor of the bill, but said he understood Storms' concerns. He called Bennett's bill a "starting point."